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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3486 ..

Equity and inclusion sit at the heart of the strategy. As I have said in the past, access to education goes beyond being able to buy a schoolbook. It is about making sure that the internet is on at home and you can access counselling if times are tough. It is about having enough money to buy footy boots for school sport and starting the school year with a new backpack and a fresh haircut. It is about not feeling as though you are less than the person you sit next to in class.

The ACT government have committed an additional $51 million over the next four years to roll out a series of initiatives to ensure equitable access to a great public education regardless of a student’s background or circumstance. Equity initiatives include more than $21 million over the next four years to ensure that all year 7 to 12 students have access to a Chromebook. There is another $2.8 million over four years to provide internet access to any secondary school student who needs it, and to fund a new e-safety program. There is $12.5 million over four years to continue the ACT’s nation-leading, 10-year plan for early childhood education, Set Up for Success. Extra support for early learning services means that all three-year-old children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage can access free early learning.

We are funding 12 scholarships for an early childhood teacher degree. There is a new $11.5 million future of education equity fund to replace the high school bursary scheme, reaching an estimated five times as many students. Canberra families will be able to apply for grants to help cover the costs of education expenses, such as school uniforms, school excursions, sporting equipment and music lessons.

There are 25 extra youth and social workers, at a cost of $7.4 million over the next four years, to provide early intervention and support for students and their families. There is $1.5 million for a two-year trial to provide 1,500 vulnerable students with access to free breakfast and lunch three days a week throughout the school year. There is $450,000 over the next two years to work with young people with disability, their families and the broader community, to review how public schools deliver inclusive education. There is $445,000 to provide free and confidential legal advice to public college students; this is particularly important as we see cases of domestic and family violence increase during the pandemic.

These initiatives will help make sure that Canberra’s children and young people, regardless of background or circumstance, are better able to engage in school life.

I also draw members’ attention to the ACT government’s significant budget investment in school infrastructure. The ACT government will ensure that we can continue to build new schools where they are needed, and that our existing schools have the capacity and facilities to support teaching and learning for all students. We are committing new funding to capital works over the next four years which will help build the new primary school at Strathnairn in west Belconnen, complete the new Taylor high school and upgrade existing schools as the demand for a public education continues to climb.

These investments are a clear demonstration of how our government is delivering on the promise to provide a great education for each and every child in this territory, to

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